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Social Engagement ROI & the Value of Exchange

Posted on Feb 27th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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    Social Media Engagement & ROIHow do you measure your online marketing performance? What are your goals, your KPIs and how do you measure ROI? These are pretty common questions in the world of social media marketing.

    As companies evolve their people, process and technology to attract, engage and inspire customers through content, I think attention on a broader view of the value that is created warrants consideration.

    Many companies that approach my agency ask about the ROI of specific tactics as if they are gambling money with a direct rate of return. If there are agencies contributing to that perspective amongst clients side marketers, I wish they would stop. It’s not helping anyone. Here’s why:

    The underpinning of marketing is centered around presenting something of value to customers who hopefully exchange money for it. Many marketers use the notion of ROI to characterize the effect of their marketing investment. Of course it makes sense to understand what the return is on where you’re spending money. But I think traditional models of ROI (input – output) can miss the point of how much impact integrated search, social and content marketing can have on the overall customer relationship. Besides ROI, there are other cumulative effects that can amplify the effect of optimized online marketing efforts that are worth measuring.

    Today’s digitally savvy customers are empowered to publish and prone to share their experiences with brands, friends and broader social networks. Consumer expectations of brands are evolving into participatory exchanges with multiple threads of dialog. What consumers want from socially savvy brands is not just about getting free coupons or unique content any more.

    The brand / customer relationship is not just about marketing presenting offers to target customers. Brand points of contact are not limited to designated personnel in sales, customer service, media relations or recruiting. Socially empowered businesses are connecting with social savvy customers in a matrix of connections. The growth of social business means entire organizations are becoming empowered to communicate and advocate on behalf of the brand. What’s the ROI on that?

    Value of Exchange – The relationship between consumers and the brands they buy from involves more than just a single transaction or a subscription. Every touchpoint between a company and a customer is an opportunity to advance or decline the relationship. Businesses have come a long way in doing that for specific departments such as marketing, PR, sales and customer service.  But with the advent of social business and social media empowerment across the organization, the threads of dialog between employees and customers becomes diverse very quickly.

    How to manage that? You don’t. Not entirely at least. You inspire it with leadership and a vision for what your brand stands for and what kind of relationship you want with customers, employees, partners, the media and public.

    Maybe you’ve observed or worked with companies that have singularly emphasized ROI in every marketing tactic employed without seeing the bigger picture of investing in the broader brand and customer relationship. Viewing industry relationship building as speculative and with uncertain financial ROI can cost a business substantially in the form of positive brand connections with customers, influencers and media. There’s a sort of equity of relationship that serves as an outcome of meaningful industry participation and leadership that many companies don’t  bother with because it doesn’t answer short term ROI questions.

    When a competitor makes those investments, the neck and neck competition normally experienced can give way to the competitor pulling away because of the amplification effect on their marketing efforts that continued and consistent investments in network development, relationship building and goodwill have achieved – all without certain or short term ROI.

    Is your company making marketing investments solely based on immediate ROI? Are you also making investments in resources and relationships as a thought leader and building your network beyond prospects, investors and industry journalists? How are you measuring the value of exchange between your employees and the public?